Asian Spice Helps Prevent Diabetes

Originally written: June 2008
Updated: April 2018

Can the traditional Asian spice turmeric help prevent diabetes? By reducing inflammation associated with the onset of obesity and type 2 diabetes, the answer appears to be yes.

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, and is often found in Indian and Asian cooking, including many curries. In Asia, it has long been known to have medical benefits, and has been used in various forms as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent in India. It has also been known to reduce inflammation, with curcumin being the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredient most present in turmeric.

This anti-inflammatory effect is what was under primary investigation in the current study. Inflammation in fat, liver and pancreatic tissue is known to be a high risk factor in obesity and the development of diabetes, so researchers wanted to know if the anti-inflammatory nature of turmeric could help prevent these conditions.

Mice were treated with daily doses of turmeric in the study, against a control group not taking daily turmeric doses. According to the study, “turmeric-treated mice were less susceptible to developing Type 2 diabetes, based on their blood glucose levels, and glucose and insulin tolerance tests.”

For mice already suffering from obesity, the researchers observed that mice treated with turmeric had a strong reduction of inflammation in fat and liver tissues. This effect, thought by the researchers to be caused by the previously mentioned curcumin content in turmeric, “lessens insulin resistance and prevents Type 2 diabetes in these mouse models by dampening the inflammatory response provoked by obesity.”

High daily turmeric doses were given to two mice models. The first were male mice that were on a high fat based diet. The second group were leptin-deficient obese female mice. Low fat diet mice were used as the controls. In both groups, in addition to decreasing type 2 diabetes risk, it was observed that the high turmeric doses decreased fat content and body weight in the mice.

While the results seem promising as to turmeric’s role as a preventative measure for both obesity and diabetes, its ability as a singular treatment is likely limited due to dose limitations. After tests are done on human models though, turmeric might develop into a complementary treatment for obesity and diabetes. Study author Dr. Drew Totoriello speculates that “although the daily intake of curcumin one might have to consume as a primary diabetes treatment is likely impractical, it is entirely possible that lower doses of curcumin could nicely complement our traditional therapies as a natural and safe treatment.”

Original Source: Totoriello, Drew. Lyda, Alex. Endocrinology news release. June 2008.

Update: A 2015 study showed turmeric’s cousin, ginger, to be a great spice for managing type 2 diabetes.


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